Both brush pens and highlighters are useful tools for planning, but which is best?
Brush pens vs. Highlighters
Here are the criteria I’ll be comparing them based on:
- Color range
- How well they work on different types of paper
- Better for decorating
1. Color range
The Tombow brush pens alone come in 96 colors – far more than highlighters which tend to come in packs of up to 6 different colors. The multiple shades of pink, blue etc. that brush pens come in makes them ideal for ombre spreads, rainbow themes and matching other accessories such as planner stickers. There are many brush pen brands nowadays so there are heaps of colors to choose from.
Note that while brush pens come in more colors, they’re a darker shade so some aren’t ideal for using over text.
Between all of the highlighter brands I own, I don’t have more than 8 different colors and most of the shades look similar between brands (e.g. orange in one brand looks a very similar orange shade in another brand).
Winner: Brush pens
Both brush pens and highlighters are fast to use.
Brush pens are far more expensive than highlighters however you pay for quality. Plus, brush pens are designed for hand lettering so you’re paying extra for the ability to do that.
4. How well they work on different types of paper
Highlighters can work on any type of paper – I haven’t noticed a difference in terms of fraying like is the case with brush pens when you use them on the wrong paper. If you use them on normal copy paper you print things onto, it’ll turn the brush tip very blunt, very fast.
Cheaper highlighters usually run out or dry out after one year. Higher quality highlighters can last a number of years depending on how often you use them.
I’ve been using the same brush pens for about 2 years and they still work as good as the day I bought them. Brush pens are more expensive than highlighters so I’d expect them to last longer, but for how cheap highlighters are compared to how long they last, I’d have to say this one’s a tie.
I’ve really only found brush pens at Officeworks and Ekerskley’s here in Australia. They seem to be more readily available online. Highlighters on the other hand are in statonery shops, department stores, discount stores etc.
7. Better for decorating
You can probably already guess the winner for this one.
Brush pens tend to be dual tip with the brush end and the thin tip that’s like a marker pen so plenty of options for decorating. Not many highlighters come in dual tip.
The colors of brush pens are more vibrant since they’re an ‘artists’ tool. My favorite are the ‘bright palette’ from Tombow. The pack also comes with a blending brush so you can easily do ombre text, or divider lines, patterns etc.
Brush pens can do various thicknesses whereas highlighter you really only get fat and then thin if you use the point of the highlighter.
Brush pens are of course, intended for brush lettering so there’s the option to do that as well.
Winner: brush pens
It’s easier to store highlighters and take them with you for portability. Brush pens are quite long and might not fit in your pencil case if you have a small one.
Brush pens come in various tip sizes although they do tend to have a large tip which takes up a lot of space if you’re using a small page size (e.g. A5)
Highlighters come in fat, thin, dual tip, wax and erasable.
The fact that some highlighters are erasable is a big tick for me – I like the option to do ‘touchups’ to keep my planner neat.
You can also get wax highlighters which are kind of like crayons and seem to last forever! If you don’t use highlighters frequently these are a very cost effective option and you don’t have to worry about them drying out.
So which is better?
I prefer highlighters. They’re cheaper and more readily available. While they don’t come in as many colors as brush pens, they still come in enough colors for color coding. They’re also more compact in size not only for storing but also for the highlighter tip themselves – they’re more likely to stick within the line width of planners. I also find them quicker to use.
If you like planner decorating and do it often, and also use a notebook that won’t ruin the brush tips, I’d splurge for brush pens.
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